Nathan Baker felt a sense of helplessness last season as Villa dropped out of the Premier League – but now he’s determined to play a big part in helping us back up.
Academy graduate Baker spent the 2015/16 campaign on loan at Bristol City and turned out 38 times in all competitions.
The most telling statistic of all, however, was his 36 appearances in the Championship term for the Robins.
He knows all about playing in the second tier of English football now and will be looking to bring that new-found experience to the claret and blue ranks.
He said: “You need a very together squad. That’s the key for me in the Championship.
“It’s a long, long season and you need everyone pulling in the same direction.
“It’s a tougher division on the pitch too. I have found a lot of teams have their own set way of playing. It’s about going out there, staying together, working hard, playing the way you want to play and getting the right result.
“You have to be mentally strong too. There are so many matches. You play one and then there’s another one on the horizon. You have to be up for it every single day, whether in games or training sessions. There’s no let-up for anyone in the squad.
It’s about going out there, staying together, working hard, playing the way you want to play and getting the right result.
“It’s also about us ensuring the hangover doesn’t continue into the start of the season. Obviously we have a new owner now and a new manager – and several new players have already joined.
“We can’t let the disappointment and frustration of the previous season fester for any length of time into this season.
“We need to start well, be right at it and get some early wins and then I think the momentum can carry us a long way.
“It’s never easy when you’ve been relegated. But with the squad that Roberto is putting together, I feel we should definitely be challenging near the top. That’s clearly our No.1 aim.
“I feel it’s all about momentum. Clearly we never got any last season and the season ebbed away pretty quickly. This term we have to find our feet, find some results and keep building every week.”
Baker enjoyed his own personal campaign at Ashton Gate, although he admits to frantically checking results from B6 every weekend.
Now he’s confident of progress for Villa under the fresh leadership of Roberto Di Matteo.
He added: “It was a good season for me. I enjoyed it. To get some games under my belt was really good.
“I spoke to the then manager Tim Sherwood and he thought I’d benefit from playing regularly and that’s what happened.
“I was gutted to see Villa drop out of the division. Obviously my main focus was on Bristol City but I was clearly keeping an eye on every Villa result that came in.
“It wasn’t great news. But hopefully we can move on and help the team get up again.
“Roberto has made a very good impression with the lads. He’s a good man and good manager.
“He’s won the European Cup with Chelsea but probably more relevant for us is the fact he got West Brom promoted to the Premier League. Here’s to another promotion on his CV by the end of this season.”